Friday, October 16, 2015

Gil Troy's "The Age of Clinton"

Gil Troy has been a professor at McGill University since 1990. Maclean’s Magazine has repeatedly identified him as one of McGill’s “Popular Profs” and History News Network designated him one of its first “Top Young Historians.” His many books include Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism.

Here Troy dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s:
Any casting director working on a movie about Bill and Hillary Clinton has to deal with four amazing actors who have already filled the roles. In Primary Colors John Travolta oozes charm as Governor Bill Clinton, running for president in 1992, and Emma Thompson telegraphs (too much) coldness as his frustrated wife Hillary. And in the long-running series West Wing, Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing, don’t play the Clintons – but did help mold Americans’ impressions of what the ideal presidential couple should be and, in an odd way, what the Clintons were like.

For Bill Clinton today, I think I’d go with Brad Pitt, Robert Downey, Jr., or another West Wing regular, Rob Lowe. Each of them, in their own way, has that combination of charisma and genius necessary for the role – and Clinton, like Lowe and Downey, has been quite the bad boy over the years and survived because, like Downey, he is The Ironman. For Hillary, I wish I could have given the role to Katherine Hepburn, to capture Hillary’s combination of smarts and suffering over the years but Meryl Streep would do brilliantly. Another interesting choice would be Reese Witherspoon – Hillary spent years forced to play a Southern belle as wife of the Arkansas Governor. It would be fun to see Witherspoon forced to play a Northerner playing a Southerner. The great actress from Weeds, Mary-Louise Parker, who plays a suburban housewife turned drug dealer could be compelling as Hillary, a Braniac policy type called Sister Frigidaire in high school forced to play a gladhanding celebrity politician.

Beyond the casting challenge of playing the Clintons – who continue to play themselves quite colorfully – there’s a host of other celebrities who appear in the book, which looks at the culture and technology of the 1990s, not just the Clinton presidency. I would cast Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad as Bill Gates –I’d rather imagine Cranston playing the man who helped invented the 21st century than playing a character who destroyed so many minds in the 21st century with his powerful “Batches.” Aaron Paul – Jesse from Breaking Bad – could play Kurt Cobain, or anyone else from the Seattle Grunge scene, or the New York drugged out Rent scene or the Beverly Hills spoiled suburbanite scene, all of which appear in the book. And, of course, Oprah could play herself, especially if she revives Oprah’s Book Club to feature my book, The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s or even if she just promised to produce either a documentary based on the book or a fictionalized version capturing all the color of the Clinton presidency and that rollicking peace and prosperity decade.

Finally, the biggest challenge, the supporting cast. The book tries to tell the story of 300 million plus Americans over the course of a decade. All of us who were alive then were part of that story, and we will all clamor to see ourselves onscreen, because, even more so than before, in the 1990s, we all believed that if it wasn’t on a TV screen, a movie screen, or increasingly, a computer monitor, it didn’t really happen.
Learn more about the book and author at Gil Troy's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Moynihan's Moment.

My Book, The Movie: Moynihan's Moment.

--Marshal Zeringue